How Much Catnip Should I Give My Cat & How Often Is Safe?

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Image of a catnip ball given to cat

As pet parents, we all want to do what’s right for our feline family members, whether it’s feeding them the right cat food or using the perfect cat litter in their litter box. Sometimes, though, it’s not easy to tell whether something is safe, even if everyone’s doing it. Take catnip for example. Do you know what catnip is, how it affects cats, and if there’s a toxic amount? Let’s find out the details every cat owner should know about catnip.

Key Takeaways

Catnip is a herb from the mint family that contains nepetalactone.

Catnip can lead to excitability or sedation depending on the individual cat.

Catnip overdose is very unlikely because cats tend to walk away from the plant when they've had enough.

What Is Catnip?

Image featuring a kitten and catnip.

You can grow your own catnip, or purchase catnip toys, treats, or spays.

Catnip, also known as cat mint or Nepeta cataria, is a herbaceous plant belonging to the mint family. It’s a hardy perennial plant that grows and spreads quite easily, just like other mint varieties. It can be found throughout the world in countries with temperate climates, including North America and Europe.

You might grow catnip plants in your garden or perhaps in a planter or window box, but you can also get catnip sprays, catnip toys, and catnip treats. Catnip contains a compound called nepetalactone, which is responsible for the effect on cats when they sniff the plant.

Also Read: Does Catnip Make Cats High?

How Does Catnip Affect Cats?

cat rolling in catnip

Catnip can either make cats relaxed and affectionate or excited and playful.

Catnip has a quick and profound effect on cats when they smell it. Their pupils might become dilated, their ears might lie flatter to their head, and their eyes might dart around as they take everything in. Your cat might run around frantically, attack their own tail, or have a sudden episode of scratching the furniture or kangaroo kicking their favorite soft toy.

So, catnip gives your cat a burst of energy, right? Well, not always! In fact, when they’ve been in contact with catnip, some cats become very relaxed and affectionate rather than playful and skittish. These cats might rub against surfaces or their owner’s legs, leaving their scent.

They might purr lots and give you affectionate headbutts (known as bunting). When it comes to catnip, every cat is different. The effect depends on their sensitivity and might be more dramatic in kittens.

Also Read: What Does Catnip Do To Cats & Why Cats Like It?

Is Catnip Safe for Cats?

cat sniffing catnip

Catnip is known to be very safe for cats, although stomach upset can occur if cats eat it in large amounts.

Cats that have ingested or inhaled catnip can seem “high,” which might make you assume that, like many drugs, it could be dangerous. However, there’s no evidence that catnip can be harmful to your cat. Although an overdose is theoretically possible, cats don’t tend to be excessive and will move away from the catnip after a short period.

Luckily, the effects of catnip are temporary, usually lasting anywhere from five minutes to half an hour. After this, your cat should be back to their normal self. Not all cats try to eat catnip—most are satisfied with the smell. But if your cat eats too much catnip it might upset their stomach, causing vomiting or diarrhea.

Also Read: 10 Toxic & Poisonous Plants For Cats

How Much Catnip Should You Give Your Cat?

cat and catnip plant

If you grow catnip, your cat can wander over for a sniff or nibble as often as they like.

When it comes to catnip, less really is more because a little goes a long way! Try sprinkling a little catnip on their toys, scratching posts, cat tree, or activity center to encourage more vigorous and enthusiastic play. You can also buy specific toys that contain catnip or can be stuffed with dried catnip.

This can be particularly useful if your cat needs to shed a few pounds by being more active. Remember, though, you only need a small sprinkle. You might also find that catnip helps your cat feel more relaxed or distracts them at times when they would normally feel anxious. If this is the case, you could sprinkle a little in their cat carrier or cat bed.

If you give a small amount of catnip and find there’s no effect, try giving a little more next time—but this is unlikely! Some people grow fresh catnip and their cats help themselves as and when they want.

Also Read: The 5 Best Catnip Products For Cats (Spray & Toys and More Surprises)

How Often Can You Give Your Cat Catnip?

cat standing near catnip plant

The effects of catnip may diminish if you give it to your cat too often.

It might be tempting to give your cat catnip every day, especially if your cat seems to have lots of fun or seems really chilled. However, the sad reality of catnip is that the more it’s used, the less of an effect it has on your cat.

So, especially if you’re relying on it to combat behavior issues, it’s best to only use it occasionally, when it’s needed. It’s also been suggested that overexposure to catnip could leave your cat feeling frustrated, which might lead to other behavior problems.

From experience, I’d suggest no more than two to three catnip sessions each week.

Also Read: The 12 Best Cat Toys: Keep Your Cat Fit And Happy With These Irresistible Toys

In Summary

cat sniffing catnip

If your cat enjoys catnip, you can give it to them occasionally for some enrichment and fun.

It’s heartwarming to see your cat playing happily, and it can be pretty funny, too! Thankfully, unless your cat eats copious amounts of catnip, it shouldn’t cause them any health issues. However, if your cat seems unwell, regardless of whether they’ve had access to catnip, it’s a good idea to speak to a veterinarian.

Also Read: Best Calming Aid For Cats

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it OK to give cats catnip every day?

It’s absolutely fine to give your cat catnip, sometimes. However, it’s not a good idea to give it every day. This is because, the more they’re exposed to it, the less of an effect it’ll have on your cat.

How often can I give my cats catnip?

Instead of giving it daily, it’s a better idea to give your cat catnip only occasionally, so that it still has an effect. This is particularly important if catnip improves your cat’s anxiety.

Can you give catnip too often?

If you give catnip too often, it won’t have such a profound effect. Your cat’s system will become used to it and will fail to respond. Instead, give it every so often to help them enjoy playtime or to help them relax.

Can too much catnip be harmful to cats?

There is no evidence to suggest that catnip will cause your cat any harm. Thankfully, even though an overdose is possible, cats seem to know when enough is enough and control their exposure.

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About Dr. Hannah Godfrey BVETMED MRCVS

Hannah graduated from the Royal Veterinary College, UK in 2011 and began work straight away at a busy mixed practice. Initially, she treated all species, but as the small animal hospital became busier, she focussed on small animals. Hannah is an expert on cat behavior and nutrition.

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  1. Nicola O'Connor

    Hello, I liked the article on cat nip and thought you might be able to help? My 9 year-old cat Sylvie has had problems with constipation and has had medication, lactose, tablets and a powder. But recently we have been giving her only a fresh cat nip leaf every two to three days and this seems to be doing the trick. Is a leaf every two to three days ok ? She also in now on a kidney diet kibble.
    Thank you

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Hi Nicola, thank you for the message, and I apologize for taking so long to get back to you! Yes, a leaf every few days is perfectly fine! I also have a kitty with a constipation problem and can relate to your struggle—will have to give this one a shot as well. Thank you again!

  2. Nicola

    Thank you for responding, yes originally we did lactulose twice a day with powder on her food and a tablet crushed up too. We managed to get her to walk on a lead and took her walks in the park which got her tummy muscles moving. This really helped and we decreased the medicine and now she only had a fresh catnip leaf very couple of days. She was very sick kitty at one point lost 1 kilo in weight and the vet thought we might loose her. But she has since put her weight back on she has kibble designed for kidneys, and human grade cat food, She won’t touch any of the special wet good for kidneys, have to say I don’t blame her !. She is only 9years old so quit e young for kidney problems.

  3. Sliver

    Hi, my name is Sliver and my cats name is Cowboy. He has issues with constipation and I mix MiraLAX, with his wet food, approximately a Half teaspoon per day. It has no taste and this has helped Cowboy. It’s powder that comes in either packets or plastic bottle/container. Hes 3 & 1/2 years old we believe. We found each other in my backyard. He’s a bit of a difficult cat to get along with I’m not sure if it’s due to his bathroom issues or if he has a personality disorder, or maybe he didn’t have a very good childhood. We’ve had Cowboy for 27 months and he’s come a long way, I believe his progress is due to him not being constipated anymore. It took me & 2 vets a few months to figure out what was going on with him. He is a much nicer cat now that he’s regular, he’s still not as nice to me as I am to him but I believe in a few years he will be just fine…I hope.
    He’s also a Turkish Van & American short hair domestic. I had never heard of a Turkish Van until I found the Cow, we are now one big happy dysfunctional family where Cowboy rules the roost & my husband and I do everything possible to make his life better and we love doing it for our boy. He’s a challenge but we don’t mind trying to help our gorgeous, hilarious, crazy, love of our life Cowboy. I can’t imagine life without him and we intend on doing whatever it takes to keep him safe and healthy. If anyone has any advice about cats with a seriously bad personality (he’s also super sweet everyday and wants to be around us all the time until he decides to be a “not nice cat” as his ER vet/surgeon has called him in the past) haha it’s true though. I would love to hear any suggestions or advice. Thank you.

    1. small mallory photoMallory Crusta

      Hi Sliver! I wonder if you can give more specifics on Cowboy’s behavior. For general advice, we have a guide to dealing with aggressive behavior here. Hope this helps!